As the world mourns the death of Blues legend Etta James, one of her sons is offering details of her final moments at a Riverside, California hospital. On Friday, January 20, the same day the 73-year-old singer died from complications of leukemia, Donto James told PEOPLE, "She basically passed in my arms."
"I was able to share everything I needed to say to her, from praying to listing her accomplishments as a mother," he recalled. "I told her that I loved her. I said, 'You were a wonderful mother, you did a wonderful job, your seven grandchildren love you, and they will be okay.' "
The 43-year-old man went on to note that even though his mother was unable to speak, she did give indication that she understood what he's saying. "I asked her if she heard what I said, and she'd flutter her eyes and look at me very quickly," he shared. "And she had been nonreactive before that."
Though grieving for the loss, Donto still said he's "very grateful." He believes that being able to be with his mother when she passed away "was a true gift". The brother of Sametto James admitted, "I wouldn't want it any other way than for her to go in our arms," before saying, "I am very proud of her, and very thankful."